Burberry, the brand with the knight and horse logo and world-recognized check, is steeped in English tradition. The fashion brand was founded in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, only 21 at the time. Thomas dressed local sportsmen from a small shop in England and by 1870, they were exclusively known for their outdoor apparel designs. But it was when Burberry patented the fabric gabardine in 1888 that he really took off. The fabric was made of a tightly woven, water and tear-proof cotton that was at once light and breathable, yet highly durable. The gabardine coat that came of this fabric became a staple in the wardrobe of the elite, as Burberry began to outfit prominent aviators, explorers and sports figures in the early 1900’s from their Haymarket, London location. In 1901, the brand’s knight and horse logo was trademarked. The knight carries a banner that reads Prorsum, the Latin word meaning forward, and the brand is first shown in the pages of Vogue in 1904. By 1910, Burberry opens a Parisian storefront and continues to grow.
The brand, which today is designed by Christopher Bailey, produces menswear, womenswear, outerwear, footwear, accessories, and a successful line of beauty and fragrance under seven different labels. They’ve come a long way from their very humble beginnings as an English outerwear-only brand. Take a look through the history of Burberry and discover their top five biggest items in fashions and most famed designs.
The Trench Coat
Burberry’s greatest fashion contribution is undeniably the trench coat. Before the trench coat there was the Tielocken, the classic trench’s predecessor, which was worn by British officers in the Second Boer War and was of course, designed by Burberry. It was in 1914 that England’s War Office commissioned Burberry to create an adapted version of the Tielocken: the trench coat, for British military soldiers fighting in World War I to wear. This version would still be made of gabardine, which meant rain resistance and durability. But the first-ever trench coat would have added shoulder straps and metal rings for grenades, making it the ideal jacket to wear in the trenches. Half a million soldiers wore the Burberry trench coat in World War I. Upon their arrival home, the double-breasted innovation was still worn by soldiers long after the war, which sparked the need for an adapted and updated jacket for everyday wear, to be worn by everyday people. And so the trench as we know it today was created. It still held many of its original design elements but was refreshed. The belted, tan-colored overcoat now even sported the classic Burberry check pattern as a lining. Since its inception in 1914, the trench coat has remained a staple in Burberry’s success. Its classic, functional and simple design has lasted for decades, making it one of the most popular items of outerwear to ever be designed.
The Burberry Check
The instantly recognized Burberry check goes back to the 1920’s when it was first created. The signature colors of the classic Burberry pattern are camel, red, black and white( as seen above), otherwise known as the Haymarket check. It was this signature check that first lined Burberry trench coats in 1924 and quickly grew to be the brand’s most well known print. The check is said to come in seven different color options, such as Supernova, Exploded and The Beat, to name a few. In 1976 it became widely popular, as the design could be found on an array of Burberry-made accessories, such as scarves, shirts, handbags and more. The brand even created a 1998 version of the check to commemorate the late Princess Diana. Aptly named the Diana Tartan, it featured a color palette of navy, black and red. It was only in 1999, however, that the famous check made its way from under the trench and appeared on the outside of the famed Burberry trench coats. The pattern caught on quickly and was soon over-used and highly counterfeited, diminishing the brand’s appearance. In 2001, under the direction of new designer Christopher Bailey, the use of the Burberry check slowed down, with the pattern exclusively used on the Burberry London line and eliminated from anything Prorsum, using only the knight and horse logo for the Prorsum line. By 2011, it was noted that less than 10 percent of Burberry products featured the check prominently. Today, however, the Burberry check is still highly synonymous with the brand; its world-wide recognition will likely never disappear.
It was rainwear that was at the center of Burberry’s success. What first began with their gabardine fabric and trench coat design, turned into an outerwear empire, which then branched out into the many areas we know Burberry for today. Of course, it all began with their classic trench and they continued to remain focused on it and became known for their rainwear. In 1983 Prince Charles and Diana were photographed wearing Burberry raincoats and in 2002, New York City’s Ritz-Carlton provided guests with Burberry raincoats (their pets included). Today, rainwear from Burberry is still highly prevalent. Their check-patterned rain boots are more popular than ever and of course, their trench coat is a classic staple in many wardrobes.
The Burberry umbrella is yet another extension of the brand’s rainwear line. As the brand began venturing out with more and more items, in 1960 they introduced accessories into the mix. This included handbags and luggage, along with other small goods, such as umbrellas. Bearing the signature check pattern, it’s said that a Paris store manager once lined his windows with Burberry umbrellas, causing a frenzy for the rain-shielding accessories. It was then that the umbrella became a brand staple. It was in 1997, after much success with their umbrellas, that the brand launched new travel sized ones. Needless to say, they flew off the shelves. But walking in the rain in style comes at a price. Today, a Burberry umbrella can run anywhere from $225 to over $500.
Along with the trench coat and their wildly successful rainwear items, Burberry has lent their signature check to nearly every other product line imaginable, branching out and making them one of the most flourishing brands in the world. It was in 1976 that the Burberry check first graced such accessory items as luggages, hats and cashmere scarves. And in 2007, the brand expanded their accessories line to include more handbags, shoes and jewelry. Today, the brand’s signature details can be found on nearly anything, as they make a wide array of accessories. Men can accessorize themselves with Burberry ties and cufflinks, pocket squares and watches. Women have limitless options with handbags, eyewear, scarves, beauty products and more. The brand even has home accessories, such as a $1395 checked cashmere blanket or $3495 alligator leather teddy bear. Needless to say, they’ve certainly branched out from rainwear to be one of the leading fashion companies in the world. Their widely popular accessories line has certainly helped them get there.